Closing the chapter on net neutrality

David Sutphen, Internet Innovation AllianceOver the past year, I've consistently expressed concern about net neutrality distracting us from the more important priority of 100 percent broadband access and adoption.

Fortunately, it looks increasingly like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC ) may finally put the net neutrality issue to rest. Chairman Genachowski has proposed a compromise, common-ground net neutrality order that has received support from a wide-array of interested parties like Senator Kerry, the American Consumer Institute and the NAACP.

As we prepare to hopefully close the chapter on net neutrality, I think it's important to share again why our number one priority should be to make sure everyone can access the Internet in the first place.
 
We live in a society in which broadband has become an increasingly vital life tool. Whether it's civic engagement or access to jobs, education and health care, those who lack a broadband connection are at a distinct disadvantage, which will only continue to grow.  If you're an African American who is unemployed--as a historically high percentage of us are today--just try finding a job if you don't have an Internet connection.
 
If you are employed, the Internet Innovation Alliance showed in a recent report that failure to have an Internet connection can cost you more than $7,200 in lost income from missing out on deals and discounts available only to those online. Given these realities, it's tragic that more than 40 percent of African Americans don't have a home broadband connection, not because they lack access--95 percent of households have access, according to the Federal Communications Commission--but because of our collective failure to demonstrate the concrete value, opportunities and benefits that come from being online.
 
We must close the digital divide and make 100 percent broadband access and adoption our collective, top priority.
 
The current FCC Order is a thoughtful and sincere effort on the part of Chairman Julius Genachowski to balance a multitude of priorities and sometimes conflicting interests.  This is the first real middle-ground solution that will give the Commission the power it needs to preserve a truly open Internet.  Anything else would likely have detrimental implications for communities that have been traditionally underserved by broadband technology.
 
It's time to move past the net neutrality debate.  I urge the Chairman and Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn to move forward with the current compromise that will protect an open internet and ensure minority communities are not once again left behind, but are 100 percent online. 

David Sutphen, co-chair of the Internet Innovation Alliance, is a regular FierceTelecom columnist.

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